Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signs education bills; legal challenges possible
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday signed five bills dealing with K-12 education funding — two of which face potential legal challenges.
Detractors have charged AB309 and SB551 violate Nevada’s Constitution requirement tax increases pass the Legislature with a two-thirds majority.
The primary challenge involves SB551, which extends the existing Modified Business Tax rate and pumps the $100 million plus that would generate into education. That rate was set to be “bought down” effective July 1 because the commerce tax generated more this fiscal year than projected. But lawmakers obtained a legal opinion from Legislative Counsel the two-thirds rule didn’t have to be applied since it was extending an existing tax rate rather than raising a tax. Senate Minority Leader James Settlemeyer, R-Gardnerville, has vowed to take that issue to court.
AB309 includes a provision allowing counties to levy a new sales tax to fund education initiatives such as early childhood education, adult education, homelessness and teacher recruitment. Because county commissions would be able to do that with a simple majority vote, some charge that improperly skates around the two-thirds requirement.
In addition, Sisolak signed SB545, the measure that redirects the 10 percent retail tax on legal marijuana sales from the Rainy Day Fund to public education. That will add a projected $120 million to K-12 budgets over the biennium.
He signed SB324 increasing the amount teachers can get to either reimburse their costs of buying school supplies from $100 per school year to $180 per teacher. The bill also expands options for teachers to use those funds.
Finally, he signed SB89 to enhance the SafeVoice program. That measure enables anonymous reporting of any threatening or dangerous activity at a public school and forms a statewide committee on school safety. Finally, it directs schools to strengthen their emergency response plans and requires districts to have a safety specialist on staff and to empower school police.